Winter can often be a time when problems are found in properties. Tenants go to turn on the central heating or turn up the thermostat and find problems with the boiler or blocked radiators. Now is a good time for landlords to carry out property checks, to put right any problems before they get worse. A reminder can be put in to landlord apps or software to do a winter property check. The last thing you want throughout December is a call from tenants to say there are emergencies at their property, as that means you have to drop everything to deal with it or pay emergency call-out prices for plumbers or central heating experts.
Simple Landlords Insurance has put together a few steps to help landlords winter-proof their home. Apparently one fifth of insurance claims made by landlords are for burst pipes caused by frozen water. This often happens if the tenants have gone back to the family home for Christmas and left the property empty, with the heating off. It is advisable for tenants to keep the heating on low at night, or if they are going away. If, even under these circumstances, a pipe still bursts, then the tenants need to switch the water off at the stop cock immediately, so there isn’t any further damage. Steps that tenants need to take to weatherproof your property can be written into the contract or any advice booklets you provide.
Now is also a good time to check the roof, gutters and any fences. Loose tiles will need to be fixed, as well as any dodgy fence panels. You may find that your insurance will not cover any damage caused in winds that are less than storm levels. While checking the roof, you or your maintenance company should also make sure the gutters are clear of debris and leaves. If the gutters do not drain properly, then it can cause problems such as penetrating damp or damage caused by water running down the outside walls.
Internally, now could be a good time to carry out the annual checks on the boiler and any gas appliances. You could also arrange to bleed the radiators, check that windows close properly and do not let in any draughts, and put draught excluders around the doors. Again, advise tenants about keeping rooms ventilated by opening windows at all times, particularly in the bathroom after having a bath or shower, and in rooms where they may dry clothes on the radiators. Poor ventilation can cause condensation which brings problems with damp and mould. A few thoughtful acts by tenants can reduce damp and condensation problems in winter, particularly in older properties.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors also advises you to check the insulation in the loft and avoid over-insulating. Do not insulate below the water tank and make sure the lid is on the cold-water tank while you are at it. If your property has stripped floors, using rugs in the winter can reduce draughts coming up between the boards and can make the room feel warmer. You can make a checklist to ensure everything is covered – think roof, walls, floors, windows and doors.